Luke 3:10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
John the Baptist was preaching to the crowds that had gathered. They were listening with great expectation as he called them out as children who did not resemble their father Moses. Calling the people to repentance they asked him what they should do. Children of God, those who followed in the footsteps of Moses, were to reflect the nature and character of the chosen family. A follower of God was to live a life transformed.
John seemed to be speaking to the wealthy present who were told to share what they had — food, clothing and financial resources. Nothing was to be hoarded for personal pleasure, but to be generously shared with others. No one was to use anyone else for personal advantage but to be satisfied with God’s provision in their own lives. The expectation for those who repented was a life-style change which was counter-cultural.
John the Baptist’s message points right to the consumerism we find in our own lives. Flipping through television you find channels dedicated to feeding the frenzy of pleasure and personal gain. Whether it’s the Food Network — who has turned eating into an art form, or “Say Yes to the Dress” — which encourages us to think that the money and energy put into the wedding is more important than the marriage — or QVC which runs continually telling us that there are still more articles of clothing and just the right accessories that we may need in our lives, we are bombarded with the messages of our culture. For God’s children there is an expectation of change, or of living counter-culturally. Sadly, it’s just not happening.
What if we were being called, as God’s people, to simply our lives for the sake of others? We are not supposed to live like everyone around us, but we are to have lives of generosity which reflect the love of Christ to a needy world. Most churches these days are struggling to make ends meet. Many pastors are barely being supported by their congregations and are looking at a new future in which they will be co-vocational. At the same time, if God’s people were faithful in giving their tithes and offerings into the church, we would have no problem. Tithing is hitting new lows as people continue to decrease their support of their local church. I hear people talk about tithing as if it’s an optional fund which you may choose to give to a myriad of social causes. At the same time we continue to purchase what we want to maintain our lifestyle. If we continue moving in that direction the church will die a slow death, and we will be personally responsible.
The church began to have it’s “tax-exempt” status back in the 4th century when it became acceptable under the Roman Empire. It was “tax-exempt” because the people of the church sacrificed and provided services for the poor and needy within their communities. The church survived while it’s ministry of compassion was funded by Christians who lived into the radical expectation of change. As we diversify our giving we also render the church incapable of fulfilling her mission. But has the church failed in fulfilling her mission because she has not had a radical expectation of change? Has the church abdicated her mission to the poor and needy because she invested too much in herself?
Following Jesus is radically counter-cultural and requires a life-style which seems at odds with the world. This is not a feel-good gospel, but a gospel that reflects the already of the Kingdom of God. May we ask the Lord to open our eyes to the vision of the kingdom that he has for us and may the Holy Spirit empower us to live into this radical life-style change. When this happens, when God’s people unite in radical change, then we will be more fully equipped to reflect Jesus. Jesus didn’t look or act anything like the people around him, and neither should we.
Lord, please examine me, my life and my lifestyle so that I can live in a way pleasing to you. Amen.
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